The past year has been a particularly wild ride for crypto investors: the value of bitcoin and ethereum soared to new heights and, with more widespread acceptance as a form of payment, also came wider institutional crackdowns.
At the same time, countless new cryptocurrencies are popping up on the market with promises of the same type of growth — it can be hard to know what to pick in an industry that is already very volatile.
"We're not quite sure today whether Fantom or AVAX or Solana or Ethereum will be the winner in terms of who gets the most total value or most users," David Khalif, the head of operations at Viridi Funds, told TheStreet. "Going into 2022, there's going to be a continued battle amongst all of these blockchains."
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Khalif is keeping a close eye on Chainlink, an ethereum-based oracle network founded by Sergey Nazarov in 2017. Chainlink was designed with the goal of improving smart contracts by automatically inserting real-world data into online systems (for example, notifying an insurance company when an accident has occurred).
As the use of smart contracts increased, so has Chainlink's value — while it fell from its May high of $51.17, its value has more than doubled from a year ago.
"Chainlink is an Oracle data provider that plugs into and has been partnering with projects across all blockchains," Khalif said. "It's a good way to kind of play the space of the infrastructure."
Another smart contract platform, Avalanche saw its value soar by more than 3,800% to over $100 and entered the top ten of cryptocurrencies by market cap in the last year. A competitor to ether, Avalanche uses bitcoin technology to power contracts and various other online transactions.
While it is still a newcomer (launched in 2020), Avalanche has become quite popular for companies looking to streamline their contracts — it counts 160 projects in its network so far and has big names such as Deloitte among its partners.
"One of the trends I see from our clients of hedge funds and active traders is that smart contract platforms are really picking up," George Melika, who founded the SFOX trading platform, told TheStreet. "People invest heavily in them [as well as] their collective governance tokens."
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For those wondering whether they "missed their chance" to buy Solana (the digital platform soared by more than 13,800% this year and is now the world's fifth-largest in terms of market cap), you likely didn't. With a low-cost platform and faster processing speeds, Solana is considered a major competitor to bitcoin and ethereum among those looking to launch their projects on the blockchain.
As Solana picks up more users and becomes a mainstream name, experts predict that it will soon start getting accepted as a form of payment at the same level as bitcoin and ether.
"Heading into 2022, there are still going to be plenty of crypto opportunities and projects that explode in value but they have to offer a unique solution that no one in this space is currently working on," Khalif said.
The Luna coin, a native token of the Terra blockchain, has emerged as one of the most-talked about platforms in the last stretches of 2021. With a market cap of around $25 billion, Luna saw its worth spike by more than 60% in the last 30 days after a particularly good week in early December — while it has since ebbed down to the $86 mark, it has pushed out cryptocurrencies like Dogecoin, Shiba Inu and the above Avalanche for a spot in the top-ten biggest cryptocurrencies.
Co-founded by Do Kwon and Daniel Shin in 2018, Terra is rising in popularity as more people turn to stablecoins to track the price of other cryptocurrencies — it is a decentralized finance (DeFi) system that uses Luna to underpin the stablecoins it creates.
"This is one of the top gainers this month," Melika said. "The Terra platform is trying to have its own stablecoin and that's definitely something we want to keep an eye out for 2022."
With the metaverse moving from a concept to something much more concrete, virtual reality is also emerging as a trend to watch for 2022. A decentralized virtual reality platform powered by ethereum, Decentraland allows users to buy virtual plots of land to create and monetize content as more users move through the online space.
This is what people mean when they talk of "buying the metaverse" — while the currency hovers around $3 and has not yet reached the staggering value of other coins on this list, Decentraland is already seeing a surge in investor interest that is expected to continue as both people and companies try to carve out an early presence on the metaverse.
"I always try to tell people don't create a solution in search of a problem but I think there are some use cases for things that people haven't really thought of," Khlaif said.